Category Archives: Happiness

Keep Choosing Right for Your Marriage

The truth is you already know most of what your marriage needs. You probably come here for inspiration or reminders, but deep down you know what keeps your family thriving. The hard part is making the effort, making the time and keeping your priorities straight.

So, today is a day for some simple reminders that aren’t so simple to keep in practice. I’m going to include two links—the first is from a divorced man named Dan Pearce who learned the hard way what he should have been doing all along to save his two failed marriages. It’s humorous and entertaining, yet husbands and wives alike are praising his advice as the ticket to more bliss and fewer divorces.

His feedback on what he would do with a do-over is here at 16 Ways I Blew My Marriage. Sometimes a good laugh will help us remember the message. From the serious, “Tell her what she is doing right,” to the not-so-serious, “I’d wait to fart until I was in the bathroom whenever possible,” Dan covers a lot of ground.

For other useful reminders, check out: 10 habits to keep marriages strong from Redbook Magazine with advice from David Wilk, a couples therapist in Vancouver. I think his #10 tip spoke to me loudest—remember it’s the little, everyday behaviors that mean the most.

“When it comes to relationship satisfaction, you can’t just ride on the big things like, ‘I don’t drink, I pay the bills, I don’t beat you, we went to Hawaii last year,’” says Wilk. “This stuff is not really what keeps couples happy in their daily lives.” What really matters is all the small stuff that adds up, such as being there for each other when one needs to vent, or noticing when he needs a hug, or making him his favorite meal just because. “It’s also giving up on the idea that you have to feel in love all the time. Marriage is about trust and commitment and knowing each other,” says Wilk. “That’s what love is.”

From my own perspective, I know that family dinners and family walks help us connect, and that carving 15 minutes a day to talk to my husband is important. I also regularly have to remind myself to say out loud the things he is doing well, to express gratitude and praise. It’s all too easy to become too ships passing in the night, especially when he is traveling or working the night shift, and sometimes we have to work harder to be affectionate partners not just parents, workers and homeowners. Some days, all it takes is a longer-than-usual hug and kiss to get us back on the same page. Other days, actually scheduling a date night out is needed.

Take the reminders that help you most, and put them to use today and tomorrow, next week and next year. When you’re on the right path, surprisingly good things can happen. If you get off the right path, do what it takes to get back.

Which of these reminders speaks most to you? What do you do to keep your marriage moving on the right track on a daily basis?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo credit: Lori Lowe

Are Pre-Marriage Jitters Predictors of Later Divorce?

The months preceding a marriage should be used by a couple to seriously consider whether they wish to be truly committed to one another and feel that they can do so. It’s not unusual for one or both of them to have questions, concerns or even fears about marriage. Occasionally, these reservations lead them to call off the wedding.

I’ve known several couples who after going through marriage preparation decided not to marry. Rather than considering this a failure, it’s probably good to know early—before they promise to love and honor ‘til death do they part—that at least one of them has serious doubts as to their long-term success. Unfortunately, it’s often just one person in the couple who comes to that conclusion, leaving the other broken-hearted.

A recent study caught my attention that analyzed these pre-wedding jitters of couples who went ahead and got married. Did having these fears predict a later divorce? Psychologists from the University of California, Los Angeles surveyed 250 couples a few months after they got married. They conducted follow-up surveys every six months for four years.

The researchers concluded that wives’ uncertainty before marriage was a better predictor of a later divorce than were husbands’ reservations. They also found the wives who had doubts before marriage tended to be less satisfied with the marriages. And couples in which both partners had doubts were linked with a 20 percent divorce rate.

“Don’t assume that love is enough to overpower your concerns,” said lead study author Justin Lavner. “You know yourself, your partner and your relationship better than anybody else does. If you’re feeling nervous about it, pay attention to that. It’s worth exploring what you’re nervous about.”

Considerably more husbands had doubts about getting married—47 percent—compared with wives at 38 percent. However, the wives’ doubts were better predictors of impending marital trouble. Nineteen percent of the women who had doubts about getting married were divorced within four years, while 8 percent of wives who did not have reservations were divorced four years later. For men, 14 percent of the husbands with doubts were split in four years, compared with 9 percent of husbands who did not have doubts getting hitched.

Researchers said marital jitters were significant predictors even when they took other factors into consideration, including cohabitation, whether the couple had divorced parents, or the difficulty of their engagement.

Newlywed wives with doubts about the marriage were two-and-a-half times more likely to divorce within four years than wives who did not have these doubts. And even the wives (who had doubts) who stayed together after four years were significantly less satisfied with their marriage than wives who did not experience these doubts.

“There’s no evidence that problems in a marriage just go away and get better. If anything problems are more likely to escalate,” said Lavner.  So, for couples not yet married, explore any reservations you may have, and go through premarital preparation to help you discuss important issues before tying the knot.

For couples who are already married, that is not to say marital problems can’t be solved; there is hope for all marriages, and many (experts say most) problems can be solved.

I should also add that I know some individuals who had jitters that faded away once they made the decision to commit to one another. It was the commitment decision itself that gave them jitters, not the person to whom they were engaged. Only you know whether your feelings of doubt are serious or fleeting.

See the story in HealthDay.

Did you have pre-wedding jitters? If so, did they fade or did they become predictors of future problems in your marriage?

Photo by Aleksandr Kutsayev courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Are You Focused on Productivity over Warmth in Your Family?

In today’s post, I’m continuing some thoughts on the book The Self-Centered Marriage by Hal Edward Runkel, LMFT. You can read part I here: When a Self-Centered Marriage Isn’t a Bad Thing.

In the last post, I shared several misconceptions about marriage that Runkel debunked. An interesting insight he writes about has to do with the family unit and our American culture’s desire to make our family life as efficient, productive and equitable as our work life. We want the wheels to run smoothly, and if there is a problem, we want to make the repair and get those wheels back on the track of life. So, here’s the problem, written so aptly by Runkel:

“You’re a family, not an office. You can’t operate on skill sets charted out and replace the person who doesn’t fit well. We are not simple machines and gears, working together toward a goal of increased efficiency and productivity. We are men and women, living together as a way to feed one another’s souls and create a warm home that is anything but mechanical and operational.”

I do think we need to be reminded of how our cultural desire toward productivity can get way out of hand. I’m often guilty of this. For instance, after my kids get home from school, the gears/tasks of homework, cooking and serving dinner, cleaning, making lunches and bedtime routines immediately begin. I’m often the productivity driver, constantly assessing progress on each task. When my husband is home, I delegate some of the tasks or supervision to him or he simply jumps in to help. Sharing warmth during the evening is often not a priority, at least until the above items are complete. Sometimes we carve out time for one-on-one discussion with each other or with each of the children, but often we are so concerned with completing tasks that the nurturing and loving feelings in the home can be hidden.

We need to refocus our energy and priority on the things that matter most, which should include accomplishing what we need to do in the midst of a loving home environment.

One couple dynamic which seems fairly common writes Runkel, is that one spouse is focused on productivity and is “over-responsible” to make up for the spouse who is “under-responsible” and does little to help. The overresponsible partner’s actions may help in the short-term by preventing some arguments, in the long term it creates a worse dynamic that pulls the couple apart. So, I appreciated Runkel’s examples and steps that help couples solve this sort of conflict not by changing their partner, but by changing their own actions and responses. (We can’t expect different results without changing our actions, right?) What I also very much appreciated was that these changed actions are done in a very loving, calm, mature, positive manner that doesn’t push the spouse away. No passive-aggressive behavior, no asking for “help” simply apologizing for contributing to the problem and acknowledging the co-responsibilities. Then, moving forward in a new way. (Check out the book for anecdotes.)

The next step is to grow in gratitude, which is something I preach here frequently. Expressing gratitude has been shown in research to be very effective at improving a couple’s bond. Thank your spouse for all the ways big and small that they help you in life. Do this instead of focusing on getting recognition for your own efforts. Waiting for your spouse to change only keeps you stuck. Be responsible for your own actions, and let your spouse be responsible for his/hers.

After focusing on yourself and experiencing personal growth, pursuing your partner with your truest self, then growing in gratitude for your spouse, we can learn to truly love one another.  That means we want the absolute best for that person. It means you will try to be the best spouse for them, even if you feel they won’t reciprocate in the same manner.

When you become a person of integrity, you become more attractive to your spouse, says Runkel. This replaces scorekeeping and resentment and helps you grow together.

Above all, this focus on the self means holding yourself to a higher standard, no matter what is going on around you.

What’s your take? Is it difficult to maintain integrity and commitment when you feel your spouse isn’t pulling his/her weight? Do you agree that changing your own attitude and actions can help transform the relationship?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com. Pick up your copy today!

Photo by ddpavumba courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

When a Self-Centered Marriage Isn’t a Bad Thing

When I began to review the book The Self-Centered Marriage by Hal Edward Runkel, LMFT, I will admit to being turned off by the title. What could be worse marriage advice than to be self-centered? I think the author was attempting to provoke the reader into questioning commonly held preconceptions. Also, there’s a big difference between being self-centered in a negative way, and being focused on your own actions and reactions as a way to contribute to a better relationship. Thankfully, the latter seemed to be the intention of the book.

I won’t say I agreed with everything in the book, however. Runkel says the best thing you can do for your marriage is to become more self-centered, learning to focus less on your spouse and more on yourself…for the benefit of you both. However, there are some people I know—often myself included—who need to look outside their personal worlds a little more often. I believe some balance is needed here. However, I do agree with the author that by focusing on understanding yourself well, you can pursue your partner with your truest self.

Questioning commonly held misconceptions about marriage can be valuable, and realizing that you can’t change your partner, just your response to your partner, is also a useful insight. Another misconception Renkel shares is that a strong couple relies on common interests and compatibility. Not true, he says, as this is a foundation for a superficial friendship, whereas “reliance on personal integrity in the midst of constant change is the foundation for a deep, lasting marriage.” This is an excellent point, and one that couples would do well to remember when they feel they are drifting apart or losing touch. Integrity and commitment are much more critical than shared interests at a particular moment in time.

One more misconception is that conflict in a marriage is bad. I agree with the author that “in-your-face conflict is a better path to true intimacy than cold avoidance.” The key in conflict is to learn to keep your cool. Being emotionally reactive and immature doesn’t allow a positive outcome to the conflict. When we are angry and fearful, adrenaline flows. The blood supply to the problem-solving part of the brain is greatly reduced. Memory, concentration and rational thought are reduced. Runkel explains how to live with the “ScreamFree Approach” and pursue your deepest desires. Staying calm and connected can help you curtail arguments, identify and change dysfunctional patterns and improve your relationship.

One of the points I’ve written about frequently is that we can’t expect our spouse to “make us happy” and meet every need. Runkel tried to make this point by explaining that being self-focused rather than other-focused means you don’t expect your spouse to fulfill you and make you happy. Instead, he says each person must take full responsibility for his/her emotional needs. “It’s not your spouse’s job to validate you, to make you feel secure enough, sexy enough, respected enough, or loved enough for you to return the favor.”

That sounds controversial to me, and I question whether we aren’t there to help one another, particularly if we see there is a blind spot or self-esteem concern. However, he does speak of the need to serve one another, which I believe can and should include praising and verbalizing love and respect as well as desire for one another. It also includes acting in a generous way that you know will please your partner.

I’ll share more on this book and the need to focus on the self within marriage in tomorrow’s post.

What do you think? Does being more self-focused or self-centered help or hinder you in your marriage?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Lessons after 17 years of marriage?

Seventeen years ago, I married a young man who made me laugh, who shared my dreams, values and faith. It turned out to be the right decision.

We met young and dated for years. But you don’t really know someone until you’re both sleep deprived with toddlers, or grieving at the loss of a loved one. When you’re under the stresses of life, your true character comes out.

So, what have I learned after 17 years of marriage? I’ve learned that after day 6,206, when you get up in the morning, it still matters what you say and do with your spouse. We can’t say, well it’s been this many years, so we’ve made it. Instead we have to choose love each day, even when we don’t feel loved and appreciated (although we try to communicate these). We have to choose our response, our words, and our actions. We have to forgive and move on. We have to look for the best in each other and look for the best for each other.

We have to fit fun into our lives even when we’re busy–whether it’s a family trip away, an early tennis game, or a lunch date on a weekday. We have to make time to connect, to share, to talk.

Honestly, it doesn’t seem that long ago that all our friends and family surrounded us on a sunny September afternoon. But we’ve grown a lot as friends, as parents, as partners, as people. We aren’t the same people who walked down the aisle back in 1995. (Read my most popular post ever, We all married the wrong person.)  Thankfully, we’ve stuck close on the journey so that we’re closer together now than we were even on that perfect day.

Yet, tomorrow again, we will have the same choices to make.

What have you learned during your marriage that helps you keep proper perspective for the long haul?

If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, please consider getting a copy of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by Sharron Goodyear courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net.

Real Men aren’t Like TV Dads—How To Be a Good Family Leader

I recently talked at a men’s group about marriage and family leadership. We discussed the dads we usually see on TV. They’re inept, unorganized, forgetful, immature, and easy to make fun of. The moms are usually in charge of the family and very bright, not to mention gorgeous and well dressed. And the kids are terribly cute and funny and have all the answers before they leave grade school.

Thankfully, most real men aren’t like those we see on TV. Most of the men I know are hard-working, intelligent, and try to get as much time with their families as they can. These real men (sometimes) cook dinner and scrub floors, change diapers and bring home the bacon. And the best of them provide excellent family leadership as well.

During my talk, some of the guys said their wives don’t always give them a voice, let alone allow them to make decisions. This is fairly common in our modern world in which women learn to multitask and make many decisions at work. We may forget that men want to be respected and appreciated. They want to feel like men, not little boys who are told what to do. So if you’re thinking that your husband needs to be a better leader, ask yourself if you have prevented him from taking that role. Do your best to encourage and support him, rather than nagging or complaining.

What does it mean to be a family leader?

Leaders are responsible for the wellbeing of their family/unit/group. Being a good leader means having a servant mentality—being willing to help without being asked and do whatever is needed for the good of the family and its members. Second, it means being aware of the direction the family is taking and being willing and able to redirect course if needed. Third, a leader gets input from everyone involved and is willing to make tough decisions.

A strong leader helps develop a common vision and a plan for achieving that vision. Everyone in the family should participate in this process. Other important skills include budgeting, ability to deal with change, encouraging/supporting everyone in the family, and developing the team (family members). Here’s a list from CNN of 23 traits of good leaders that is a great start if you want to assess your own leadership qualities or develop your leadership skills. It mentions things like having confidence, caring for others, having integrity and humility.

My thinking about family leadership is of course colored by my own experience with my husband who has always had strong leadership skills both at home and at work. He does well to be a consensus builder and seek out input. He researches thoroughly and is not afraid to make a decision. He models service to others and has strong financial leadership. He spends time with other mature men who support him, and vice versa. He is a spiritual leader in our family, leading prayer and character lessons for the kids. (You might think kids would find this dull, but there are so many resources to make it fun. Our kids remind us that it’s time to do another. ) He encourages each family member’s development of skills and hobbies and cheers us on. He always displays honesty and hard work. And one of his more important leadership traits is that he admits when he is wrong. We are much more willing to listen to a leader who admits he has faults and failings, aren’t we?

Delegation is a skill not to be ignored. Being a leader does not mean that person is in charge of everything. A husband who is weak at finances may do much better with the wife at the helm of the family’s pocketbook. A tech-savvy teen may be just the person to make a decision about the family’s computer needs. A loving husband respects his wife as his equal, and a family leader makes the most of each person’s contributions.

Being a leader doesn’t mean ordering other people around or being a control freak. I grew up in a house like that, and it wasn’t fun, nor was it productive.

What does being a family leader mean to you? Husbands, how do you show loving leadership? Wives, how does your husband best display family leadership? Does media’s portrayal of dads/husbands affect your view of how they should act?

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by digitalart courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Is Anxiety Affecting Your Life and Marriage? 10 Tips to Ease Stress

Since 1980, diagnoses of anxiety disorders have increased 1,200%, reported Nancy Snyderman, MD, on this morning’s Today Show. (See American Anxiety.) The state of the economy, marriages in trouble, overly busy schedules, and a culture that is too constantly “plugged in” were all cited as common reasons Americans have sought help for problems with anxiety.

Another key reason people experience anxiety problems is due to the gap between their high expectations and their ability to fulfill them. Please, take note of this and evaluate your expectations for your life, spouse and family.

Experiencing panic attacks and inability to sleep, racing blood pressure and heart rate, and feeling so worried you can’t move forward on tasks are some of the ways anxiety might get in the way of living life to the fullest–or even being able to leave the house. Thankfully, many patients who have sought treatment from their physicians have been able to relieve some of their symptoms and function better. Only about a third of people who need help seek it out, say experts.

Stress, as compared with anxiety, is often a motivator for accomplishing our goals. Experiencing stress is not necessarily a problem, and usually does not require medical treatment. It may be a sign that changes are needed, though. Take marriage as an example. If you’re feeling stress that you haven’t connected with your spouse lately, this might help motivate you to take a positive action and schedule time together.  On the job, a looming deadline might make you feel stress, but also motivate you to complete the project.

Be aware of your own state of mind, as well as your spouse’s. If one of you is experiencing too much stress, work together to discuss and find solutions.  (I’ll include some practical ideas here.) However, if you or your spouse is experiencing what may be an anxiety disorder, a doctor’s help may be needed.

Our world can often seem too hectic, as if we may never get the chance to take a deep breath. Even on vacations, we may be worried about the work piling up for us back at the office. Following are some ways you may be able to reduce stress in your life:

1)      Dr. Snyderman suggests unplugging at least one hour before bed from all electronic devices including TV. I’ve written a lot about making time to unplug to benefit your marriage and to have time to focus on each other. Another benefit is improved sleep. Keep the TV out of the bedroom. Put the smart phones, ipads, laptops, etc. in their chargers. Facebook can wait until tomorrow, and you can finish your emails later. It’s important to your health and to your relationships to have this hour block before sleep to read, think, talk and to begin your nighttime routine.

2)      Plan your meals. We all have to eat, and waiting until you’re hungry for your next meal is a bad time to be planning what it’s going to be. You’re more likely to grab something unhealthy on the go, or to eat the first thing you find. It takes much less time to plan a few days of meals than it does to run to the store or restaurant each day. In our house, we often make a double or triple batch of something (like tacos, soup, lasagnas, chili, quiche, etc.) and freeze for future meals when we might be rushed. If you have an hour on a weekend, you can make up a few meals for use during the week. Honestly, it doesn’t take much effort, and you’ll be glad you have a homemade meal ready to heat. And it’s less expensive when you buy in bulk and freeze for later. If you have kids at home, teach them to cook and get them involved in helping in the kitchen. Benefits to better meal planning can include improved health (if you choose wisely), saving money, and making your spouse and family feel cared for.

3)      Exercise. I’ve not always been a big fan of exercise, although I force myself to do it even when I don’t feel like it. Truthfully, we all feel better when we’ve gotten some exercise and we’re taking care of ourselves. In the last couple of years I’ve started to really enjoy tennis, and I’ve taken up running short distances. Family walks and bike rides round out my not-too-strenuous routine. The research I’ve read on living longer shows it’s important to keep moving rather than worry about completing marathons. Find an activity you enjoy, such as gardening, swimming or horseback riding, and you’ll be more likely to make time for it. Exercising together can be good for your relationship and can improve your sex life when you feel better about your body.

4)      Nurture social relationships. I’m all about nurturing and investing in your marriage and family. It’s also important to cultivate friendships and in-person social activities, such as volunteering, church groups, neighborhood groups, etc. The research is very clear that social networks help us live longer (see The Longevity Project). And doesn’t time with friends reduce your stress? Just try to avoid comparing how busy and stressful your lives are! Instead, take a walk or take in a cultural activity together.

5)      Many people like me find prayer and/or meditation helps them reduce unnecessary worrying, and stay more calm and positive throughout the day.

6)      Make time to hug and kiss your spouse throughout the day. This non-sexual touch is a known stress-reducer. Also, make time for sex, which is also beneficial and releases bonding and stress-reducing hormones.

7)      Try to reduce travel time by commuting during off-peak hours or working some or all of the time at home if your job will allow it. Combine your errands to save time (and gas). Bring reading or busy work with you for those times when you’re forced to wait, like at the doctor’s office.

8)      Reduce the busyness of your life by cutting out extraneous activities (the fourth birthday party this month) and making time for what you want to be doing. If you don’t have one or two free nights a week, seriously consider paring back.

9)      Make your home a pleasant place to be. Save a little energy and kindness for those closest to you. Take a minute before you enter the house to clear your mind and have a positive word for those at home. Try to reduce clutter and stay on top of regular tasks, like laundry. Encourage everyone in the family to pitch in by assigning small tasks. For example, my kids sweep the kitchen floor, take care of the cat, and make their beds (usually). I do the laundry, but everyone puts their own clean clothes away. My husband and I share the shopping and cooking duties. We have a white board for tasks, so that I don’t have to constantly nag.

10. Before you do any of these, you have to decide you want a less stressful life, and then commit to making some small, doable changes. You might even consider bigger changes, like earning less money in exchange for a less stressful lifestyle.

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

What It Means to be a Supportive Husband

Today we have a guest post from Jordan Mendys, who wanted to talk about the challenges of being a supportive husband in today’s modern world. Thanks to Jordan for sharing his personal experience with us!

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I am a young man, so when I say that I was raised in a traditional home, it’s not necessarily referring to a home with 1920 ethics and values, but it’s still a system that I have had trouble adhering to. It’s not that I reject traditional values, but as I have grown and matured, I have seen flaws in the roles that I am supposed to play as son, brother, man, (now) husband, and (to be) father. I was brought up thinking that being a supportive husband relied on something largely rooted in economics. I was to be a breadwinner, which I suppose left my wife as breadmaker.

I rejected this ideal from an early age, and this rejection was cemented when I met my wife. Melanie was smart, individual, motivated, and had goals that I admired. As we dated, we spoke on these topics, and I knew that this was someone I wanted to be with. The longer I was with her I knew that in many ways, her professional potential was greater than mine. That never bothered me, but it once again brought up this idea of what my role as a man was in a marriage.

Recently, we celebrated our first year of marriage, and the lessons that I learned about being a supportive husband were turned on their head more than I thought. My wife started her first year of law school, putting me in a position to finish my grad degree remotely from school. It was tough. I drove 10 hours once a week to get to my school and back home. Money was tight, and that doubt crept in, “Why am I not supporting my wife better?” I was back again on the track of viewing money as the fix, losing sight of what was important.

I learned that being a supportive husband transcends your income. What it means is making tough decisions for you and your spouse. What was important was reassuring my wife that we made the right decision to go back to school. It was something that I always thought, but she would doubt when time–and funds–got tight. But I knew that was something that both of would take care of and be responsible for, and right now allowing her to achieve lifelong goals trumped any other immediate need. What my wife needed wasn’t nicer things or more money, but the reassurance that she was doing the right thing. It was my duty to provide that reassurance, and make sure she felt fulfilled and capable of great things. As I learned from her and her law classmates, this can be daunting task.

At times being supportive is allowing yourself to be supported. I was raised to think that men are stoic creatures that should never need emotional tending to. At times I do fall into this category, pushing away people close to me to deal with my issues alone. This first year was tough for me. I did feel a duty to be an economic staple for my wife and I, and being largely unemployed for half the year took its toll on me. Pushing her away to protect myself and feelings was not fair to her. I had to open up about my doubts and fears. This didn’t fix the immediate problem, but it got us talking, and on a road to healing our doubts.

I learned that the first year of marriage isn’t always glamorous, but the takeaway for both of us was remarkable. I always had an idea of what it meant to truly be a supportive husband, but when those lessons are put to practice it can be difficult. In the end, love trumps all if you let it. If you instead allow for your fears to take over, they certainly will as well. Being a supportive man and husband doesn’t have a set definition, and at times seems to be fluid based on the situation, but you have to be patient, full of love and understanding, and ready to take on obstacles together.

Jordan Mendys lives with his wife in North Carolina. He is still finishing his M.A., but has found a job as a media professional, and helps blog for DX3. He and Melanie celebrated one year of marriage on July 23rd.

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Thanks again, Jordan. These are great lessons to learn early in marriage. This got me thinking about ways I feel supported by my husband. So, I’ll write about  this topic soon. I welcome your suggestions to me about ways you feel supported by your husband, or ways you as a husband feel you best support your spouse and family. Feel free to email me or leave a note in the comments.

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by Photostock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Is True and Lasting Love Possible?

Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples around us of couples who thought that lasting love was possible but now feel they were wrong. When things don’t work out, they conclude–and tell others–that love just doesn’t last. They say things like, “Enjoy it while it lasts,” to those caught in the love bubble.

Maybe you’re wondering if your marriage can last, or if you should even risk entering into marriage with its current success and failure rates. And even if your marriage should the test of time, will the romance and loving feelings remain? I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I didn’t believe love and marriage can endure. So, why do some fail?

There are a handful of must-haves that allow a relationship to work, things that when missing cause your relationship to fizzle or to lead to more conflict and pain than passionate love. Does your relationship have them? Can you develop those that are weak?

The article 7 Secrets to Make True Romance Last from Hitched is a great starting point for those must-haves that keep a marriage strong. When these elements are in place, there is often a peace in the relationship that allows you to work through turbulent times.

Read the full article to hear what psychologists Edwin Locke, PhD, and Ellen Kenner, PhD, have to say about why these traits key for BOTH spouses:

1. Moral character
2. A genuine ego (each person stands for something but also supports the other)
3. Some common values and interests (above moral values)
4. Reasonably compatible personalities that allow you to feel understood and valued
5. Care for your appearance without being vain
6. Good sex with an understanding of how to please each other
7. Constant communication (includes good listening and feeling understood)

The lack of these traits can cause common marital problems, such as not feeling appreciated. You could have additional character traits that are important to you.  A sense of humor has been important in my marriage, allowing us to laugh at our blunders and move on. But when a key item is missing, such as good moral character, it seems everyone around the couple can see things are problematic but one or both of the partners seems initially blind to the faults by infatuation.

Are there items on the list that are deal-breakers to you? Does your marriage have the 7 traits?

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Are you chasing time or cherishing time?

This time of the summer each year I become a little melancholy due to the marking of time by my kids birthdays and my own, as well as nearing another school year. I’ve often struggled with looking back far too often, lamenting the lost time, rather than enjoying the present.

You may have noticed fewer posts this summer, and that’s due to me wanting to cherish more family time while my kids are off for summer break. Yet even though we share many hours a day and most of our meals together, I still feel time is passing faster each year. Do you feel that way? My dear grandmother, who is sadly not long for this world, says each year got faster and faster for her, clear into her 90s when seasons would pass in the blink of an eye.

I am especially grateful for a long history with my husband that allows us to reminisce our travel days before kids, and the infant days of no sleep, and many memories with extended families. Sharing memories with him somehow makes them seem more permanent and important.

The point of this post, other than rambling on about life being short, is that we all aim to live each day in a way that we will look back with fondness. Making time for our husband or wife, spending fun time with family and friends–these are treasures we won’t regret. It’s only through spending time together that we can keep our connection strong.

On the other hand, juggling too-busy schedules with too many activities doesn’t leave time for spontaneous memories. It isn’t enough to schedule a great two-week vacation each year if  your life is otherwise chaotic and stressful. Particularly in marriage, we need regular intervals to relax and reconnect, to breathe and appreciate the present.

What about you? Do you often dream of the future? Spend your time thinking of the past? If you are good about living in the present, please share your tips for the rest of us.

Special note: My grandmother passed away the day after this post and is now at peace. She had a wonderful way of treasuring time with family.

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com. Note: Amazon has First Kiss to Lasting Bliss currently discounted at $13.95 for a hard copy and $8.19 for the Kindle edition! A pdf is available for $7.99.

Photo by Winnond courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net